Sony has announced that it will be abandoning the original 20GB and 60GB PlayStation 3 models in Japan. Instead, Sony has said it intends to "vigorously promote the expansion of the PS3 platform" by concentrating on the cheaper 40GB model that's turned around its gaming fortunes.

The move is being interpreted by many as a sign of Sony's intention to combat Nintendo's dominance in Japan, where the Wii outsold the PS3 by a factor of three to one in 2007.

A stronger PlayStation 3

Because the 40GB PS3 is cheaper to manufacture, it's also cheaper to sell. With the Wii being so competitively priced, this is essential if Sony wants to compete in its home market and take advantage of concerns already raised there over the long-term future of the Wii.

Back in 2005, Sony's Phil Harrison criticised Microsoft for launching two different versions of its Xbox 360 console - the Core (without a hard disk) and Premium systems. "I think we wouldn't take that strategy," he told the Games Developer's Conference. "We wouldn't create confusion."

The emergence of the 40GB version as the sole model in Europe and Japan seems to be bucking this trend in favour of a more streamlined approach. An 80GB version of the PS3 is available only in North America and Korea.

While the 40GB model is able to play Blu-ray discs, it doesn't have the PS2 backwards compatibility of its 60GB cousin, a blow that will be lessened only if Sony can manage to bring the lower production costs to consumers before too long.